This story started some 53 years ago in Kolkata on a hot, humid evening when a baby girl was born to a Bengali middle-class family. The family was educated and liberal enough to welcome a girl for the third time, and the baby’s arrival was marked with happiness. The mother and the baby were taken home and days and nights started rolling in their usual pace.
It was a few months after that the actual story began. The baby caught a fever, along with mild diarrhoea. Though she recovered within a week, the mother noticed she was not moving her left leg in the usual playful manner. Unnerved, the mother started massaging medicated oil from that very day but things were deteriorating fast. Soon it was discovered that somehow, she was affected by the poliovirus which made her left limb dysfunctional for the lifetime.
It was the time when poliomyelitis or polio as we generally call it, was yet to be eradicated from India. Quite a number of children used to become victims of the polio virus every year. But, the family never thought their baby would be counted among them.
When the girl was sent to school, she became a soft target for everyone. They bullied her and called her names. Her classmates used to make fun of her lameness. She had very few friends but even they were not willing to include her in any game. The reason was obvious. Soon, she learnt to spend time with her books.
She was good in her studies and completed her graduation successfully. By then, her father had passed away, two of her sisters got married and, two elder brothers had started working. She wanted to work or study further, but her family was hell-bent to get her married. After six months, she was married off to a man much older to her. Everybody opined that she should consider herself fortunate enough to get a husband without a handicap. Nothing else mattered in her case.
Her husband was kind-hearted and, she was happy for some years. Then again, fate played a nasty game with her. Her husband died suddenly from a cardiac attack leaving behind his wife and a two-year-old daughter. Her in-laws immediately turned their faces and, she was forced to return to her father’s house with practically nothing but her daughter. She was only 26 then.
It was not quite a welcome home for her. What would a widowed, handicapped woman with a baby daughter become to her family members? A useless burden! That what they all thought and thought it very wrong. Soon, she started to teach little children from the neighbourhood. She knew it was not possible for her to join a job leaving the daughter at home. Nobody was willing to take care of the child and she was not in a position to hire a babysitter. But she also knew that she needed to earn for their survival. Financial wherewithal was the only way with which she could provide her daughter with good food and education.
She was saving a little from the meagre earnings of her tuition. The rest she used to give to her brothers, who in the meantime, had wives and children. After a year or so, she joined a sewing and beautician course. The fees were provided from her savings.
It was the hardest time of her life. She had to teach the kids in the morning, had to help her sisters-in-law in the household chores, had to take care of her daughter, in the evening she went for the training classes and at night returned home as tired as a dog. In spite of her handicap, she used to walk all the way (5 km) from the training school to the home every day to save a few bucks.
Years passed by.
After getting her diploma in sewing and beautician course, she first joined a tailoring shop. She also started giving beauty care and treatments to ladies from the neighbourhood at home. The concept of beauty-parlour, salon etc were not very common in the lower middle-class localities of Kolkata during the mid-nineties. So, soon she became popular among the local ladies. She admitted her daughter to the school and, her financial contribution to the family increased.
Cut to 2018
She now runs a tailoring shop of her own. She still remains an amateur beautician. Her daughter is now settled in the US of A.
She is my aunt, Mita Chakraborty, whom I lovingly call Mou Maashi.
Maashi has seen the worst of days. When now she recalls, she says “my polio-affected leg swelled and ached so much from walking 5km every day…it was unbearable at times.”
But she never complained, never whimpered. Never she asked God “why me?” She had courage, self-respect and determination.
I think true beauty is self-reliance and resolution which help a woman fight against all the odds. The true spirit and power coming from within propelling to make her own identity. I find my aunt as one of those women who are beautiful both inside and outside. She never considers herself as a victim but as a victor.
I believe every woman has TRUE BEAUTY within her in all the roles she plays. For over 18 years across 650 plus salons across the country, Naturals has been helping the Beautiful Indian Woman get more Beautiful.
Today Naturals Salutes the Beautiful Indian Woman.
Presenting Naturals TRUE BEAUTY… http://bit.ly/naturalsOF
When I told my Mou Maashi that I would like to write about her life and struggle on my blog and about Naturals, she looked visibly excited and happy. Not only that, to my utter astonishment, she said that she knew everything about Natural’s salon service and its founder, Veena Kumaravel. Then she added, “As a trained beautician, I still have the dream of opening a beauty parlour of my own. Maybe…someday…”
And, I believe, she knows how to makes dreams a reality. Amen.